Hainan Airlines launches Beijing to Manchester direct air service

China-based Hainan Airlines has formally launched a direct air route between Beijing and Manchester, strengthening the airline’s intercontinental route network in Europe and offering more choices to international travellers.

The new Beijing-Manchester-Beijing air route with operate every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The introduction of the air route follows the extension of the visa term for Chinese nationals visiting the UK from six months to two years – a relaxation in visa regulations that was announced earlier this year.

The UK government is also planning to launch a ten-year multiple entry visa programme, offering increased accessibility to the UK for Chinese visitors. The opening of the air route between Beijing and Manchester is expected to attract more investors from China to invest in northern England. It will also make it more convenient for business executives and travellers travelling between China and Britain as well as between China and Europe generally.

Further, the addition of new air route also supports the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, a programme launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping, to rebuild a modern equivalent of the ancient silk route that connected China to Europe in ancient times, as well as the Northern Powerhouse programme, the UK government’s programme to improve economic growth in the north of England. The direct route established an air traffic bridge between the two cities as well as a new Silk Road in the air.

In 2016, Hainan Airlines opened several international routes, including Changsha-Los Angeles, Beijing-Tel Aviv and Beijing-Manchester. The new Beijing-Calgary route is scheduled to be launched later this month. The company has also created a new international brand image with its ‘Oriental Beauty’ concept in a move to provide an enhanced level of services. Hainan Airlines has been named as a SKYTRAX five-star airline for five consecutive years.

Gatwick Airport to introduce UK’s first flight to Chongqing from June

Gatwick Airport has announced the launch of the UK’s first ever direct flights to Chongqing – one of world’s leading urban centres and a major manufacturing and transportation hub in southwest China.

The twice weekly, year round flights will then continue to China’s fourth largest city, Tianjin, Gatwick said. The move comes as the latest figures from VisitBritain showed that tourist numbers to the UK from China were up 37 percent in the first nine months of 2015.

Starting from June 25, Chinese carrier Tianjin Airlines will operate an Airbus A330 on the new Gatwick-Chongqing-Tianjin route – the airline’s first long haul flights outside Asia, strengthening its existing network serving over a 100 cities across China. The new Gatwick route will depart from the airport every Wednesday and Saturday evening at 22:25.

Guy Stephenson, Gatwick’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘By flying into two of China’s most important economic centres, Gatwick is providing vital direct connections for UK business people into some of the most exciting growth markets on the planet.

‘Tourists from both the UK and China will also benefit, as will non-exporting businesses located in the UK as Chinese visitors are some of the highest spenders. The number of tourists from China also grew almost 40% last year alone and these numbers are only going to rise.

‘The two new Chinese destinations compliment Gatwick’s growing long haul network which now boasts over 50 destinations on four continents.’

Patricia Yates, VisitBritain and VisitEngland Director, said: ‘China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. We have ambitions to double the spend from Chinese visitors to GBP1 billion by 2020 and making it easier for them to get here is obviously a really important step in increasing our competitive tourism offer to this rapidly growing market.’

While Chongqing is well connected to the rest of China, Tianjin is located in northeast China and is the major gateway port serving the capital Beijing. It is also home to a Special Economic Zone. Both cities are currently not flown to from the UK.

To serve the new Gatwick-Chongqing-Tianjin route, Tianjin Airlines will operate an A330 aircraft designed to carry 260-passengers with 18 business class seats and 242 economy class seats, Gatwick Airport said in a release.

Heathrow receives new Great China Welcome Charter, joins China tourism campaign

Heathrow Airport is joining the China tourism campaign after receiving Visit Britain’s new Great China Welcome Charter in recognition of the airport’s friendly welcome to Chinese visitors.

The Charter aims to help Chinese visitors to easily identify hotels, attractions as well as retailers and tour operators who provide customers with information in Chinese.

The Charter comes at a time when Air China is looking to double its flights from Heathrow to Beijing in October, when Heathrow will have 51 departures per week to the mainland and 50 to Hong Kong. That would also make Heathrow the only UK airport where passengers can travel direct to destinations including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and Chengdu.

Chris Butler, Heathrow’s Airline Business Development Director, said, ‘China is one of the most valuable markets for the UK and Heathrow is the only airport in the country able to offer regular, direct flights to both Hong Kong and cities in the mainland. We all gain culturally and economically with closer links there, which is why we were delighted to announce Air China’s doubling of services from Heathrow to Beijing, and why we have recently produced a travel guide in Mandarin for Chinese passengers to help provide them with more information about Heathrow when they arrive.’

Jo Leslie, who manages the Great China Welcome programme for Visit Britain, said, ‘There is strong evidence that businesses who go the extra mile in catering for certain nationalities quickly reap the benefits. Heathrow Airport has been quick to recognise the massive potential of the Chinese market and invested accordingly. We’re delighted to be able to count them as one of our members and hope that many more British tourism and hospitality businesses will follow their example.’

The Great China Welcome Charter was launched in March by Visit Britain to make Britain the destination of choice for the fast growing Chinese market. The Charter now has close to 200 members as Chinese visitors to Britain have doubled in the past five years, and is expected to treble again by 2020.


Air China returns to London Gatwick with flights to Beijing

After a short break over the winter, China’s flagship carrier Air China is planning to return to London Gatwick with flights to Beijing.

Starting summer, Air China will provide a non-stop service from London Gatwick to Beijing International Airport four times a week on the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which offers Business Class and Economy Class seating.

Business class passengers will benefit from a complimentary limousine service at either end of their journey, fully-flat seats and access to Gatwick’s No1 Traveller Lounge in the North Terminal.

Xiaoming Wu, General Manager for Air China UK and Ireland, said: ‘There is an increasingly strong demand for air travel between the UK and China’s major cities. Last year alone the number of passengers who flew between the two countries exceeded two million and Air China feels that it is now an excellent opportunity to capture good business in such a massive market.

‘London Gatwick is conveniently located less than 30 minutes away from central London by the express train and offers great facilities to business passengers, making it ideal for Chinese services. We trust that together with Air China’s strong network across Asia and Australia, our flights between Gatwick and Beijing will greatly enhance the passenger travel experience as well as benefiting the communications and exchanges between people across the two countries.’

Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick Airport CEO, said: ‘Air China’s services to Beijing demonstrate that Gatwick can support long haul routes and make them a success. We are sure that London’s passengers, who continue to choose to fly from Gatwick, as well as Chinese travellers wanting easy access into central London, will be delighted to have even greater choice of flights between London and the Far East.

‘This route provides another essential air link to Beijing, a key high-growth market which offers UK businesses significant trade opportunities alongside the other emerging destinations Gatwick serves – from Vietnam to Russia and the Middle East.’

And beyond Beijing also, Air China’s connections across Asia and onto Australia are fast, affordable and diverse. The new regulation also offers the opportunity to stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours without the need for a visa, benefiting both business and leisure travellers.


British Airways to commence Chengdu flights from London Heathrow

British Airways, the UK’s national carrier, has launched new direct flights from London Heathrow to Chengdu in southwest China.

The British airline said that it would provide the 777-200ER service three-times-weekly flight from September 22. British Airways will be the only UK carrier to offer a direct service between Changdu Shuangliu International Airport and London Heathrow. For travellers booking between now and January 6, flights will be on offer for £508 return, including taxes and charges, The Telegraph noted in its report.

The route will be served by a four-cabin Beoing 777, with First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy). The airline said that it plans to switch from a Boeing 777 service to the 787-8 Dreamliner during the summer of 2014, and increase weekly flight from three to five.

One of China’s largest cities, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is famous for the Chengdu Panda Base, a research centre dedicated to the successful breeding and conservation of giant pandas. Sichuan is renowned for its spicy cuisine and features the Sichuan Opera, a 200-year-old tradition involving songs and dance, colourful costumes and a skilful display of ‘face-changing’, involving masks.

Keight Williams, British Airways’ chief executive, said, ‘Chengdu is a fascinating venue for leisure travellers, and is known around the world for its famous giant pandas and excellent fiery Sichuan cuisine.

‘We are confident that the new route between Chengdu and London will prove popular with customers travelling between the two major economic hubs.’

Chengdu is the fourth Chinese city to allow visa-free entry for foreign travellers, following Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. The policy applies to visitors from 45 countries, including Britain, the US, France and Singapore. British Airways already flies to Beijing and Shanghai.

Earlier this month, BA announced the launch of flights to the South Korean capital, Seoul, and said that it will increase services from Heathrow to Amman, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jeddah, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto from next summer.

Chinese state to fund new London airport

China is set to add another British asset to its portfolio, as London mayor, Boris Johnson, is preparing to approach China and South Korea for state funds to build the Isle of Grain airport in north Kent.

The Mayor’s advisers have reportedly held talks with Chinese sovereign investment fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC), and officials in Seoul to fund the project. Other institutional investors, including City-based pension funds and infrastructure firms, have also said that they would consider funding the Isle of Grain scheme, which has been called the Thames Hub Airport. CIC is already a minority shareholder in Heathrow Airport Holdings.

According to architect company, Foster+Partners, the project is estimated to cost £24bn.

Last week, Johnson discarded the plan for ‘Boris Island’ airport and endorsed the option of building a new airport on the Isle of Grain. He also proposed the closure of Heathrow, which he said the government should buy for £15bn and turn into a town housing 250,000 people.

In addition to the Isle of Grain project, the Mayor also commissioned feasibility studies on a new artificial island in the Thames Estuary and on an expansion of Stansted. All of the options would require four runways, he said.

‘Ambitious cities all over the world are already stealing a march on us and putting themselves in a position to eat London’s breakfast, lunch and dinner by constructing mega-airports that plug them directly into the global supply chains that we need to be part of,’ he said last week.

The report comes as China’s sovereign wealth funds bought $4.7bn worth of British assets last year. Chinese institutions are also being approached for several other new UK projects, including a new ‘super-sewer’ under London and the next generation of nuclear power stations.

Gatwick sustains passenger figures with help of new airlines

Gatwick Airport in the UK has managed to sustain its 2012/13 passenger figures slightly ahead of last year thanks to new carriers that have opened services to the airport.

The airport had lost routes from its previous carriers but still achieved an increase of 400,000 passengers or 1.2 percent on the previous year, for a total footfall of 34.2 million. Ryanair’s Irish routes and Korean Air’s Seoul service were among Gatwick’s larger casualties, but new business from Air China, Iraqi Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Vueling, Gambia Bird and Icelandair more than filled the gap. In addition, Easyjet added a Moscow service, Norwegian Air Shuttle added 12 new routes and British Airways added new services to Europe and the Caribbean.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive at Gatwick, said, ‘Today, passengers can fly direct to Beijing, Istanbul, Moscow and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam from Gatwick. This is important in the context of ensuring the UK has the international connectivity it needs to remain globally competitive. We will continue into this next financial year with the same drive and focus to create a world-class airport.’

The airport is currently undergoing a £1.2 billion upgrade, some of which has been spent on remodelling the South Terminal departures area that will reopen this summer. It is now also capable of accommodating the new giant Airbus A380 aircraft, following the completion of a new pier that received a test flight just a few days ago. Gatwicks owner, Global Infrastructure Partners, will now be keen to secure regular traffic for that investment, which could dramatically increase passenger figures without impinging greatly on the airport’s flight capacity.

Air China Offers New Frankfurt to Chengdu Direct Service

Air China, the China-based, state-owned airline company, is offering a new non-stop service from Chengdu, in China, to Frankfurt airport, in Germany.

The new service commences from May 19, 2013, and is intended to help to position Chengdu as an air transportation hub for southwestern China.

Around 62 of the airline’s domestic, international and regional routes currently serve Chengdu. The new Chengdu to Frankfurt service is intended to make it easier for passengers from Europe to travel to the southwest region of China.

The three times weekly service will be operated with an Airbus A330-200 on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The aircraft features personal Audio Video on Demand (AVOD) in all classes of service, and lie-flat seats in Business Class.

The airline already offers direct services from Frankfurt to Beijing and Shanghai, and it is part of the extensive Star Alliance network, through which it can offer its passengers access to 1,356 destinations in 193 countries and regions.

In May 2012, the airline launched its new service from London Gatwick Airport to Beijing International Airport, which operates four times a week and is intended to expand its services to the city of London. Air China is also offering a fast track immigration service at London Heathrow Airport for its VIP passengers flying from Beijing to the UK.

Air China is currently the 10th largest airline, by fleet size, in the world, with a fleet of 330-200 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, which operate on 289 routes, and serve a total of 143 cities.

China to encourage outbound tourism

China is rolling out initiatives to encourage outbound tourism.

The ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) in Beijing has plans to launch a series of programmes in 2013 to increase tourism from China to other states. The initiative will especially focus on Southeast Asian regions where tourists from China have not been going in large numbers.

ACC secretary general, Ma Mingqiang, said, ‘Some 90 percent of Chinese travel to Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, but only about 11 percent head to South-east Asia. There is obviously still a lot of growth potential for this region. Chinese tourists spent USD7.2bn in Europe during the last Lunar New Year holidays. Why should Chinese tourists go all the way to Europe when the same luxury products they desire can be found in Singapore and Malaysia too?’

The focus of the initiative is on developing local markets and also markets in nearby nations, which will generate returns for China in the long run. The centre said that it would employ a number of means, the most important being awareness through the media.

There is a general belief that the Chinese know little about the 10 ASEAN countries, and there are plans to promote documentaries via China’s TV channels and hold a tourism exhibition at the Wangfujing building in Beijing during the Labour Day holiday, which sees 310,000 visitors daily. A travel guidebook for Chinese travellers will also be produced

Welcoming ACC’s initiatives, Saly Phimphinith, director general for tourism marketing department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Laos, said, ‘I hope (ACC’s efforts) will drive the middle- and high-end segments to Laos, as Chinese tourists to Laos are generally lower-spending compared to Europeans.’


VisitBritain to Woo Chinese Travellers

VisitBritain, the official tourism website for Great Britain, will be wooing the Chinees market, with a tourism delegation from the UK set to visit Shanghai, in China, this week.

The visit is part of a trade mission, and will be aiming to re-ignite the interests of Chinese travellers in the UK, following the London 2012 Olympic games. The delegation will be meeting important Chinese travel agents through appointments and seminars.

Keith Beecham, the leader of the China mission and director of overseas for VisitBritain, said, ‘The UK tourism opportunities from China are vast, numerous and there to be developed further, especially in this crucial post-London 2012 period.

Such was the demand from the industry that our mission could have been booked more than three times over. Everyone now recognises that China is a hugely important market for tourism and these business trips will help us achieve our target of welcoming 382,000 Chinese visitors by 2020.’

Recent research shows that the UK remains an attractive tourist destination for people from China, who are drawn to the country’s culture and heritage, countryside and shopping experiences.

In the last five years, the UK has seen a 39 percent increase in visitors from China, and the agency intends to increase this by 150 percent by 2020.

Earlier, VisitBritain announced its new ‘The Big British Invite’ campaign, featuring real British people, who will be inviting tourists to visit Britain for its scenic places and experiences. In its new phase, the campaign will be placing advertising aimed at travellers in the US, India, China, Japan and the Middle East.

The agency will be investing £5m for its partnership with British Airways to persuade travellers to visit Britain for Christmas shopping and to avail of the January sales, with a special offer from British Airways. The main campaign is running from October 2012 to March 2013.